Northern Ireland news

Chris Henry: Ulster Rugby has experienced its toughest 18 months

Ulster Rugby star Chris Henry. File picture by Hugh Russell

AN Ulster Rugby player has said the last 18 months are the toughest he has known at the club.

Chris Henry told the BBC there was "real shock" over the loss of key coaching staff, following other turbulent events.

The club is still attempting to rebuild after former players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding were involved in a high-profile rape trial.

The pair were were found not guilty in March of raping the same woman at a house party in 2016.

However, they were subsequently sacked by Ulster and Ireland for involvement in explicit WhatsApp chats that were revealed during the marathon trial.

Henry said he hoped the club will bounce back.

"There's been so many changes and it's been turmoil. There's no doubt we've had adversity this last two years," he said.

"When you speak to the younger players you tell them to use adversity in the right way.

"When you have gone through that, which was without doubt the toughest 18 months we've ever had to go through, it's only going to make people stronger."

A total of eight Ulster players, including Jackson (26) and Olding (25), have left the club.

Andrew Trimble, Tommy Bowe and Paul Marshall have retired while Charles Piutau, Callum Black and Robbie Diack have moved to new clubs.

Director of Rugby Les Kiss left in January and his successor Jono Gibbes has been excused from his contract early for family reasons.

Ulster chief executive Shane Logan is stepping down in August.

Physiotherapist Gareth Robinson and strength and conditioning coach Jonny Davis have also left.

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